George Nakashima's Furniture Craft Revealed in New Book

Pictured Above: Mira Nakashima. Photo Credit: Martien Mulder 



New Hope, PA – The new book from Mira Nakashima, daughter of George Nakashima, one of the leading innovators of 20th century furniture, takes a behind-the-scenes look at the Nakashima furniture-making process and how he became a household name. Featuring original sketches, the philosophy behind his masterpieces, along with family history, “The Nakashima Process Book” lights a path into what makes Nakashima furniture unique. Mira, a trained architect, and Harvard graduate has worked in the family business since 1970, and currently produces her father’s iconic designs as well as her own custom, hand-crafted furniture.

“The Nakashima Process Book” explores George and Mira’s devotion to discovering the inherent beauty of wood so that noble trees might have a second life as furniture. Nakashima Woodworkers’ process remains unchanged — embracing the unique qualities of wood to reveal the ‘soul of the tree’ and emphasizing the natural beauty of the wood grain and burl. No two pieces of Nakashima furniture are identical, and this book expands the understanding and appreciation of the time-consuming, individual attention spent on each piece of furniture produced.

“Making furniture is an act of faith—that the wood holds promise to become something beautiful, that the designer will bring it to its fullest potential, and the craftspeople will construct a piece that is both practical and aesthetic,” said Mira Nakashima. “We created this book as a window into the design and craft traditions developed by my father.”

Pictured Above: Process Book, Conoid Studio. Photo Credit: Contributed.

A Nakashima piece is a conscious simplification of design that allows wood to tell its own story. The studio’s approach to design represents the rich and active legacy of a studio that, to this day, is led by a strict adherence to craftsmanship and a humble respect for wood. “The Nakashima Process Book” describes tree anatomy, furniture terminology, how wood is selected and much more. The book is printed and handbound in Italy with an exposed spine that pays tribute to traditional craftsmanship. The removable cover unfolds to reveal a large-scale, two-sided poster of George Nakashima triumphantly holding one of his early masterpieces, the Grass-seated Chair, and original drawings from George Nakashima on the underside. “The Nakashima Process Book” ($35) can be ordered online.

George Nakashima (1905–90) was a world-famous woodworker in the second half of the twentieth century. He achieved fame as a leader of the modern American Arts and Crafts movement. George earned a master’s degree in architecture from M.I.T in 1931. In 1934, Nakashima joined the architecture firm of Antonin Raymond, a protégé of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. However, after spending a year in a WWII Japanese American internment camp in 1942, along with his wife and daughter, Mira, Nakashima decided to pursue a new career as a furniture designer, where he championed traditional philosophies and craftsmanship. Nakashima is recognized as one of America’s most eminent furniture designer-craftsman and his style of “organic naturalism” can be seen in the buildings, landscape, and furniture located in the Nakashima Woodworkers Complex in New Hope, PA, which has been recognized as a National Landmark and a World Monument. Private tours of the Nakashima studio are offered through the Nakashima Foundation for Peaceand George Nakashima’s work can be viewed at the Metropolitan MuseumMingei International Museum and Michener Art Museum.

Founded in 1945 by the late Japanese American George Nakashima, Nakashima Woodworkers focuses on material and craftmanship by creating timeless furniture pieces from sustainably harvested hardwoods, particularly American black walnut, made to be aesthetically pleasing and utilitarian at the same time. The studio works only with solid wood and with an immense respect for the material. George believed that natural materials, such as wood, should be “studied, understood and respected”. They custom-mill sustainably harvested hardwoods and select the resulting planks individually for each project.

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